Thursday, April 23, 2015

Booklet Review: Ribbon Stitches

Ribbon Stitches by Mary Lou Wright and Suzanne McNeill for Design Originals

Although this little booklet is currently out of print, and probably has been for a few years, I'm making an effort to review some of my thrifted stitchy stuff like this so you can keep an eye out for a copy on your own treasure hunting adventures :)

It's a lot easier to find something you're interested in if you know what to look for!

When hunting about for craft booklets like this, I often find them stuffed in with magazines of all kinds in thrift shops and used book stores. Although the sticker price is $3.00, I only paid a dollar, and that's pretty typical for these, so booklets like this can be a very affordable way to experiment with a new technique.

I've always loved the look of ribbon embroidery, and I've read quite a bit about it over the years. Although this guide is small, it packs in a lot of content and is actually better, instruction-wise, than some of the full-length books I've read on the subject!

Like most booklets, it's a project book, with 15 small floral designs finished off as ornaments and wall hangings. The front and back cover and a two-page center insert are full-colour while the rest of the book is black-and-white.

As you can see from the photo above, each project includes a B&W photo, a drawn illustration to use as a pattern guideline, fabric cutting templates and a list of materials. Arrows labelled with the stitch name point to each area of the illustration.

And these names correspond to the Stitch Diagrams given at the front of the book:

Besides illustrating how to lock the ribbon on the needle before stitching - which was incredibly helpful! - there are 17 stitches shown, most with multiple parts. All seem clear and concise, although I did try folding the Concertina Rose several times with disastrous results; I suspect there's a trick of the wrist somewhere in there!

But by far the most useful feature is indeed the "Full-Color Stitch Sampler Inside!":

I've never seen anything like this before and it's amazing to see the stitches laid out "in progress"! Some even have the needles still in place, which is cute touch ;) Most compare the same stitch in floss and silk ribbon, and some show multiple steps, like the beautiful yellow Bradford Rose at the top right (which I'm hoping to try soon!).

The recommended materials are regular DMC cotton floss and YLI Silk Ribbon, which seemed to be the most popular supplier of the Silk Ribbon Revival in the mid-1990's, which was right around when this book was written in 1994.

As a kid, I spent lots of time happily trailing along after my Stitchy Guru Mother in fabric stores, and I remember seeing all the cards and bundles of shiny, pretty ribbon on the pegboard shelves, long before I ever thought about picking up a needle :)

Unfortunately, the lack of availability of silk ribbon - and it's expense! - is the biggest stumbling block to Ribbon Embroidery today. But I've been experimenting with polyester "satin" ribbon, and while it lacks the soft drape of silk, I like the look!

Here's a selection from my Stitchy Guru Mother's stash of practice threads; like me, she was hesitant to use the silks she bought and started with these, but other things came along and she never did try the real thing. She may still have some silk ribbon somewhere, so if I get good at this I may try that for something VERY special ;)

Meanwhile, I tried my hand at a Spiderweb Rose, using the diagram in the booklet:

You can see the ribbon I used here, in the original skein and wound on floss cards.

And here are my roses! The weird blobs in the middle are French Knots, which definitely need some work (and aren't any easier in ribbon LOL). The rose on the left has the floss base recommended in the booklet, and the larger one on the right is worked over a base made with the same ribbon, which is usually how it's done.

I'm really pleased with how the floss-based Spiderweb Rose turned out, and I'll be using this method in the future! Small tidbits of information like this can make a HUGE difference when it actually comes to stitching, and I'm so glad that The Great Stitchy Karma Gods brought this little booklet my way! Highly recommended.

Finally, here's my favourite project in Ribbon Stitches, which is also the simplest:

Elegant and pretty, this bouquet features a Bradford Rose and Loop Stitch flowers with Lazy Daisy leaves! I really love that Ribbon Embroidery is so rich and lavish looking yet most of the stitches are basic surface embroidery ones you may already know. It all very much depends on the ribbon you use, and your tension.

Over the next few weeks I'll be letting my imagination run rampant with ribbons :) Hope this little review was helpful. Have you thrifted anything stitchy lately?!

(And if you're Spring Cleaning your craft closet, please consider donating to a thrift store near you! It's a great way to help old supplies and projects find a new home.)